Fanø Free Folk Festival: 3 days of experimental folk sounds on a beautiful Danish island…

Fanø Free Folk Festival is back with 3 days of experimental folk sounds on the beautiful isle of Fanø in the south-west of Denmark. The 5th anniversary edition of the festival offers a diverse international program with artists such as Arborea (US), Powerdove (US), Jo Quail (UK), Svarte Greiner (NO), Cigdem Aslan (TR), Daniel Merrill/Ayman Asfour (UK/EG) and many more.

Summer kicks in, and like many other places in Europe that means lots of festivals. In recent years the Danish folk scene has gained quite a revival, which is also reflected in the festivals. Yet, the small independent Fanø Free Folk Festival, is quite a unique event bringing experimental folks musicians from all over the world to the tiny village of Sønderho on the island Fanø for 3 days in July.

The spirit of Fanø Free Folk Festival…

The vision was born back in 2010, when people from the alternative music magazine Geiger and local music enthusiasts in Sønderho decided to bring some musicians they were inspired by to the island. What was thought as a rather informal meeting of musicians quickly spread via word of mouth, and the thought of making it into an annual event emerged. This year the festival celebrates it’s 5th year anniversary, and the vision is intact. Leader of the festival, Rasmus Steffensen, explains:

“The idea of the festival was born out of the wish to create a more intimate festival feeling with a very close contact between performer and audience. We were a group of people who were all into genres such as neo-folk, psychedelic folk, drone/ambient music but also free improvisation, ethnic sounds etc. Some of this music we could meet at other festivals, but often the more fragile and intimate parts of the music gets lost on a big stage. With Fanø Free Folk Festival we wanted to create a space, where musicians and audience share a community feeling. It’s not about headliners and about pushing your artistic ego, but rather about meeting other musicians and getting inspired to create something new. We often see musicians creating new international contacts at the festival, just like bands often invite other musicians with them on stage. So it’s truly a space where new things can happen, just like it’s a space where folk music enthusiasts and avantgarde fans come together in a very informal atmosphere.”

Fanø and the folk roots…

It’s no coinsidence that the festival takes place on Fanø. The island has a very lively folk music tradition and the village of Sønderho, where the festival takes place, is known among folk enthusiasts for it’s unique music and folk dance: The sønderhoning. The village was recently awarded “the most beautiful village in Denmark” and is surrounded by wonderful nature. And even if Sønderho has just around 300 inhabitants, it has kept a rich cultural life and a cosmopolitan feeling that dates back from a time when the people of Sønderho were mainly sailors travelling out and bringing back influences from other cultures. Rasmus Steffensen adds:

“We thought it could be a very interesting thing to present experimental takes on folk sounds in a place with such a rich folk music tradition. Of course we were also a bit anxious that the traditional folk musicians would shake their heads in disbelief at the music we present. But they have been very open to it, and it has been a great gift for us to make the festival in Sønderho. A lot of local people help by opening their houses to host international artists etc. and I believe that many of the performers at the festival find it inspiring to get in touch with the traditions of the island. Besides, the nature is truly beautiful and we always try to take people out into the nature as well, like acoustic shows in the dunes.”

The line-up for this year’s festival is ready and offers more than 20 concerts presented over 3 days – from 25-27. July. As usual the festival has a very international focus with musicians from USA, England, Poland, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Germany, Norway and of course Denmark. Among the highlights one can look forward to the highly acclaimed psychedelic folk sounds of the duo Arborea, the brooding mystique of Svarte Greiner and the experimental and improvised songs of Powerdove – a group counting members of such acts as The Curtains and Deerhoof. Another international highlight will be British queen of electric cello and loop mysticism, Jo Quail, who will release her new and awaited album “Caldera” just one month prior to the festival.

The festival also offers powerful intercultural explorations of folk music. We’re proud to present the Kurdish singer Cigdem Aslan. She is renowned worldwide for her contemporary adaptions of folk music from Turkey, Greece and The Balkans. Her debut solo album “Mortissa” has made her a rising star in folk, world and jazz circles and her unique mix of Greek rebetico, Anatolian songs, Sephardic music and much more is truly powerful. Aslan and will perform at the festival in duo with Tahir Palali and both of them will also give a very rare performance with the quartet Nefesh, a group led by Polish guitarist Raphael Roginski. The group, which also counts Danish experimental drummer P.O. Jørgens, creates a personal mix of Anatolian and Easter European traditions with elements of improv/jazz.

As a special offering the festival will also host a residency, where English violin player Daniel Merrill (Dead Rat Orchestra) and Egyptian violin player Ayman Asfour will perform at various venues and explore the violin traditions of England and Egypt in the context of local Fanø violin traditions. Daniel Merrill already played at Fanø Free Folk Festival in 2012 with Dead Rat Orchestra. Excited about returning, Merrill explains:

“Fano Free Folk Festival is a wonky, off kilter gathering of musicians and artists who continue to create on the fringes of scenes, on the outskirts of the industry, but in living in the heart of understanding through creating deeply personal, highly contextualised music. As such it is a location that the Dead Rat Orchestra have felt entirely at home – free to let their music mingle and ramble. The festival is not slick or polished, and there is no sense of there being barriers between audience and musicians; music is shared and enjoyed as conversation, in the same way that that ephemeral community come together to share meals and dance. Returning with the Asfour-Merrill Duo therefore seems one of the most fitting opportunites; my first solo violin performance was at Fano Free Folk Festival and the openness to this exploration experienced there has driven me on in pursuing this. Returning I will be performing alongside one of the great Oriental violinists, Ayman Asfour, as we explore combining cultural approaches to the violin. This collaboration is a direct descendent of the openness to play that Fano Free Folk inspires.”

Full line-up:

Arborea (US)
Bird People (AT)
Cigdem Aslan/Tahir Palali (TR/UK)
Daniel Merill/Ayman Asfour (UK/EG)
Family Underground (DK)
Halasan Bazar (DK)
Hungerhoff & The Wild Roots (DE)
Jo Quail (UK)
Laboule (IT)
Lasse Thorning Jæger (DK)
Mattia Coletti (IT)
Moongazing Hare (DK)
Nefesh (PL/TR/UK/DK)
Of Rivers and Trains (IT)
Olga & Palle (PL/DK)
Powerdove (US)
Raphael Roginski/P.o. Jørgens (PL/DK)
Rowan Coupland (UK)
Svarte Greiner (NO)
Teamforest (DE)
The Restless Fields (DE/DK)

Tickets for Fanø Free Folk Festival cost 400 Danish kroner + ticket fee and can be bought via


Rasmus Steffensen (Festival manager)
Phone: (+45) 20 61 60 66

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